Immigration, United States
Often described as a nation of immigrants, the United States had a foreign-born population of 12.4 percent in 2005. Before the 19th century, however, people rarely used the term immigrant. Instead, the foreign-born came as settlers, pioneers, slaves, or indentured servants. The Naturalization Act of 1790 first established a centralized process for becoming a citizen, originally open to any free white individual who could demonstrate residence in the country for 2 years. In the mid-19th century, the short-lived Know-No thing movement emerged as a reaction to a surge in immigration, particularly of Irish Catholics after the potato famine of 1845–1851. No national legislation, however, was enacted in response. Immigration was, for the most part, welcomed as a route to national development until the late 19th century. This changed with the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese from entering the country and excluded those already in ...